Wondering how to plan an event or where to start?
You need to have in mind that every almost event is unique and has its own purpose. Type and size, too. So you might need to have a different approach to every one of them. Depending on the event, you could end up handling tons of small but important details. Anyways, there are a few basics on how to plan an event.
Let’s get started!
1. Defining an Event
What Type of Event Are You Planning?
Are you planning an internal or external event? An internal event is one within your organization/employees. Benefits of organizing internal events:
- better communication among people
- employees feel closer with each other
- allows people who work for the same company, but not in the same location, the opportunity to meet
- improved context and credibility
- delegates feel informed and valued and therefore more involved in the company’s activities.
For example, internal events are appreciation event, a holiday party, training, team building, etc.
An external event is one outside of the organization – like social events, networking events and conferences.
The Most Common Types of Corporate Events
Whether hosting a conference or a trade show, corporate events are popular because they bring people together, building interpersonal relationships and boosting trust.
Let’s talk about the most common types of this kind of events:
Seminars and Conferences
Those are commercial programs where attendees are informed or trained about different topics. Seminars are usually shorter events, lasting a couple of hours to a few workdays. On the other hand, conferences have multiple sessions. They both have single or multiple speakers. These events are usually held for small or medium groups often in hotels, academic institutions, or in an office conference room.
A trade show is an event organized to bring together members of a particular industry to relieve direct contact between the producers and distribution channel members. Major trade shows usually take place in convention centers in larger cities and last several days. Local trade shows may be held at a local arena or hotel (large spaces) showcasing the products and services to hundreds of vendors.
Executive Retreats and Incentive Programs
Executive retreats and incentive trips are often held at exclusive resorts and destinations. Typically topics in this kind of an event are business development and planning. Most often, it lasts between three and five days and requires attention to location selection, accommodation, transportation, catering, business meetings, and free-time activities.
Company or Organization Milestones
Company milestones provide a business or organization the opportunity to celebrate a grand opening or other major milestone or anniversary. Your expenses could include labor, materials, or marketing costs
Event Purpose / Goal
All events have a purpose, and you need to identify yours at the very beginning of planning an event. Try to answer questions like: Why am I organizing this event? For the revenue? To represent my (new) product? To educate or raise brand awareness? Knowing your goal will help you plan your event so you can ensure that every part of your event is optimized for success. Clearly defined goals help keep you on track throughout the event planning process. They also help you avoid wasting resources. Every decision involving time and money for your event can be related to your guiding purpose.
SMART formula is an effective tool that provides the clarity, focus, and motivation you need to achieve your goals.
When you have well-defined goals and objectives for your event, planning, promoting, and sticking to your budget – all become much easier
Therefore, smart objectives that relate to your organization’s goals will stick with you throughout your entire event planning process.
Objectives should be:
S – pecific
The more specific your goals are, the bigger is the chance you’ll get exactly that.
M – easureable
Measurable goals are objectives that can be measured with a number.
For example, I want my event to generate 100% more revenue than last year.
Defining the physical manifestations of your goal or objective makes it clearer and easier to reach.
A – chievable
That means you need to find out whether the goal is acceptable to you. Achievable goals are like the right place to reach and the right place to be. So, you need to be smart and realistic. The point is to challenge and motivate yourself to complete your work.
R – ealistic
Your goals need to be realistic to you and what you want to achieve. Why do you want to reach this goal? What is the objective behind the goal? Will this goal achieve that? If you have a goal that you feel isn’t a top priority for you or your business, consider either dropping it or refocusing somewhere else.
Don’t set highly unrealistic goals with the idea of achieving success as soon as possible. Try to remember that all successful business people don’t just become successful overnight.
T – ime bound
Deadlines. Not something we like, but something most of us need.
Everybody knows that deadlines are what make most people switch to action. Therefore, set the deadlines, for yourself and your team, and go after them. Keep the timeline realistic and flexible. Also, try using some project management tools like Trello to easily organize your tasks and keep your team in sync.
Determine Event Size and Duration
How many attendees will attend your event? More people mean a larger venue and higher catering expenses. Will everybody see things happening on the stage and hear the speakers well – do you need more equipment? What about the AC – more people means more heat? It might be smart to set the number of participants in front based on the venue and budget planned.
Also, how long will the event last? Generally, the length of the event is largely influenced by the type of event as well as your goals.
2. Choosing a Right Venue /or Venue Sourcing
Finding the perfect venue is very important and one of the biggest decisions you’ll make. You need to be sure it fits your event theme and style and can host a certain number of attendees you plan to have. For a large, multi-day event, a hotel or conference center might be the best option. On the other hand, for a smaller, one-day event better are less tradition space. Remember, date and location are the tasks you need to complete as soon as possible.
Also, there are a few things to consider when picking a venue for your event:
Accessibility/Comfort: Does the venue have accessible entrances and elevators? Are there all-gender washrooms? What about accessibility in general for disabled people? Is there enough parking places and is it easy to reach the venue once your park?
Size: An event for 50 people will need a different space than one for 500. Also, different setups mean different capacity.
Costs: Will there be additional costs? How much of a deposit is the venue asking for? Will you have booths for interpreters or do your need to rent them additionally? How much will you get back if you, unfortunately, need to cancel?
Venue limitations: Do they accept external catering? Is there an easy access for the vehicles? What are weight restrictions for the equipment hoisting and rigging? Will internet connection work well with set number of participants?
How do you typically find a venue for an event? There is a harder and easier way. The harder one is using a Google/Yahoo/Bing search or Yelp/Trip Advisor where you can waste your hours looking at different venues. When you somehow manage to find a few suitable ones, they can easily be way out of your price range. And how about writing a dozens of emails?
Easier way considers using venue sourcing tools. How?
These tools provide a searchable database of venue and allow you to compare and contrast venues across the same criteria. For example, check out Puzzle events platform. Here, in one place and a few clicks, you can find the best place for your event, plan your event using easy map view & use contact forms to contact venues directly for booking and additional information. Also, you can use the platform to book other event services you might need.
3. Determining a Budget
No money, no event. Simple as that.
No one likes to talk about money, but you need to determine it as soon as possible as you begin planning an event. Depending on your point of view, finances are either the most exciting or most boring aspect of event management.
Whether your event budget is small or large, it’s important to know where each dollar is going.
Technology has made event budget tracking easier. Budget tracking tools help you to easily monitor, save and invest your money. There are so many of them you can choose these days. For example, Expensify App – Expense Management Software. This is an automated tool for expense report management, receipt tracking, and business travel. Expensify saves countless hours of strenuous manual entry with one-click expense reports in real-time. It also offers a user-friendly mobile app.
Use Event Sponsors
Determining how to place your budget isn’t easy. To stretch it and increase your chances for success, corporate sponsors and partners are the way to go. There’s an easier way, and it will lead to less stress, better analysis, and more time to spend planning the event. In seeking this kind of help, you need to understand sponsors and marketing objectives. It’s also important to know who to talk to so you don’t end up repeating your pitch. Focus on seeking partners with the same business vision as your event vision. And, if you’re seeking corporate sponsorship, it’s important to make inquiries well ahead of time so they can count on you when the time comes.
Venue – room rental(s), security deposit, parking
A/V – projectors, internet/Wi-Fi, speakers, microphones, cameras
Catering – bartenders, servers, food, beverages, linens, table settings
Marketing – social media marketing software (like Hootsuite, Zoho Social, Hopper HQ (Instagram scheduler)…), print material, design work and registration management software (Idloom events, Constant contact, Team Snap, Ticket Tailor…). This kind of software provides a full-featured, cost-effective and customizable solution that facilitates enterprises and organisations to allow members and customers to register and pay online anytime and anywhere for events, training courses and examinations…etc.
Speakers – it’s always about balance… sometimes it’s ok to have a lesser number of expensive celebrity speakers and mix it up with new and interesting people.
Entertainment – (musicians/DJ, speaker fees, associated housing and transportation costs)
Everything else and more ( venue decor, seating, additional event staff, taxes, and fees)
To help organize your budget check out event budget templates. An event budget worksheets can help you track event expenditures, such as venue rentals, refreshments for attendees, marketing and advertising costs, and travel fees. You can also use it to track incomes, such as ticket sales, vendor payments, merchandise sales, and advertising revenue. In this way, these event budget templates can help you check planned against actual costs, and verify the accuracy of profit projections.
You can choose between excel templates (if you like to visualize event expenses) or printable ones (for event planners who prefer to work on paper.)
Excel templates for example are Microsoft Office Official Template 1, where you can compare budget versus actual costs and income in several categories and Microsoft Office Official Template 2 where you can track the estimated and actual expenses of an event along with the estimated and actual income using this template; includes profit and loss tab with graphs. These two you can download for free. And there’s also Smartsheet Event Budget Workbook and Conference Planning Worksheet as customizable event budget templates, a work execution platforms that empowers you to more efficiently manage event planning efforts with real-time collaboration and process automation.
4. Developing Event Marketing & Promotion Campaign
If no one knows about your event how will they register? That’s why promotion is so important.
There are multiple ways to use marketing and promotion campaigns for your event. It all depends on your budget, but the purpose is always the same: to drive attendees on your event. Promoting your event using call phones and emails are a little bit old fashioned these days. On the other hand, using digital marketing tools and digital ways of promotion can give you time. Speaking of time, the most important thing to remember about event promotion is to start early with the organization!
If you’re organizing corporate events or business conferences, you need to find ways to ensure attendee satisfaction and event ROI.
There are tools that can save you time and help you easily increase the visibility of your event and bring traffic to your event website. For example, Whova is an affordable, mobile-friendly, all-in-one event management platform where it can help with event registration, event promotion, attendee engagement through the conference app, event website creation and agenda management, attendees check-in via the event check-in app, name badge generation, and more.
Use social media, viral marketing, and promotions to interest crowd before your event. Keep publishing content posts on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and blogs. When the event is over, offer event recaps, highlights, infographics, photos & videos to your attendees. The goal is to keep your event viral as long as possible. That’s a good way of getting your attendees more connected to your organization.
If you want to learn more about how to use social media to promote your event, check out our previous blog.
Before you start with your promotion consider having a website, either registration site or event site. Emailed invitations are in the past. That’s expensive, hard to track and you can easily input data incorrectly.
Registration sites are perfect for smaller events or events that don’t need much promotion. This kind of site allows an attendee to register easily online and provide you with the information you need.
An event website is created for large events and high-cost events. The purpose is to convince attendees to attend the event. This kind of website can include videos, different information, and lead to a registration site. The event website implies the registration site.
Theme attracts attendees
Think about the timely and compelling theme of your event. Theme will impact decorations, food, entertainment, and so on.
- Name of your event
- Tagline – Short, memorable branding slogan that describes the event.
- A logo
There are a lot of good free online graphic design tools. You can use them and easy design most of the things you need for your branding (such as a logo, infographics, images). Canva, Piktochart, Pixlr, and GIMP offer some (if not all) of their services for free. Some come with pre-made templates to make the process even easier.
This is a type of marketing focused on creating, publishing, and distributing content (videos, blogs, social media posts) for a targeted audience online.
Content should be useful and relevant and is a great way to attract attendees to your event.
An effective content marketing strategy requires commitment and effective Search Engine Optimization.
What includes good SEO?
Producing content regularly – it shows Google that you are a relevant source of information, leading to higher search engine rankings.
Keep your content on topic
Conduct keyword research – using high search volume/low competition keywords is the key to a high ranking on Google’s search results page, but your keywords need to be relevant to the promise of your content. If you need help finding keywords to target, use tools like Google’s Keyword Planner Tool and KeywordTool.io.
Internal links – Linking to relevant content on your website helps decrease the percentage of visitors that leave your site after visiting only one page (bounce rate)
Guest posting – to establish relationships with other outlets that are relevant to your event. More exposure means a wider range of potential attendees.